04 Aug 2017

Bodytrak’s multi-sign body monitor is life-saving breakthrough

Defence features writer Mark Lane hears how Bodytrak’s multi-sign body monitor, designed to fit securely and comfortably into the ear, gives a fast indication of heat injury or other physiological stress and could save many lives.

Three soldiers lost their lives on an SAS training exercise in the Brecon Beacons in 2013, after all three suffered the effects of hyperthermia.

This, and other such incidents, led to the development of Bodytrak, a multi-sign body monitor which, it is hoped, will not only save the lives of military personnel, but also have civilian and sporting applications.

Bodytrak claims it is the first and only in-ear body monitoring platform to accurately measure multiple vital signs, such as core body temperature (CBT), heart rate and volume of oxygen.

Alec Creighton, Bodytrak Business Development Director, says: “After the horrific incident in the Brecon Beacons in which three soldiers died, the Defence Medical Services (DMS) had an open offer for innovative solutions to monitor core body temperature during operations, and we procured that contract.”

The Bodytrak CBT monitor is still being trialled by DMS and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). Following the initial Ministry of Defence contract, Bodytrak has been further developed to monitor other body signs for further trials.

Bodytrak is now being considered for selection for the MOD’s Exercise Ice Maiden expedition, which will see British Servicewomen become the first all-female team to ski across Antarctica this winter.

As the Bodytrak sensor is designed to fit securely and comfortably into the ear, the developer says it gives a faster indication of heat injury or other physiological stress, allowing instructors or commanders to intervene more quickly. Often the victim of hyperthermia or heat stress is unaware of their own deteriorating condition. Using the ear as a measuring site, due to its proximity to the brain, enables Bodytrak to accurately pick up immediate changes in the body more reliably than wrist-based devices.

All data is sent wirelessly from Bodytrak in real time to a cloud-based analytics platform via a smartphone, tablet, smartwatch or internet hub. This allows for closer third-party management of individual performance.

“Essentially we need to understand what information needs to be sent and in what situations,” explains Creighton. “In a training environment it’s quite easy to send that data because it can be sent wirelessly as a radio transmission. From an operational setting, communication is obviously limited to a minimum.

“It’s understanding when to communicate data, what data to communicate and to whom. We can send that locally within a squad and to a squad leader, or when they establish contact they can transfer data at that time and they can transfer it outside of normal patterns. If nobody is trending against their normal patterns then you don’t necessarily have to transmit everything. However, if a soldier was showing signs of heat stress then Bodytrak would transmit that locally like a traffic light warning to a commander who would then transmit that data to a forward base or to whoever they needed to contact at that time. It doesn’t necessarily have to be transmitted in real time to everybody at all times.”

The earpiece incorporates two-way communication for both radio and telephone use so that it can be integrated with any existing communication systems that personnel need to use. It also provides hearing protection and can record and digitally process ambient sound so the user can hear safe frequencies and still retain situational awareness.

Bodytrak has obvious applications in the sporting arena for measuring and monitoring performance while training. It can help protect those athletes who push their bodies to the limits and beyond and when, as Creighton puts it, ”your mind is tougher than your body”.

The company believes Bodytrak could also play an important role in other civilian activities such as firefighting.

Creighton expands: “Essentially firefighters are exposed to heat far more frequently in a training environment than they are in an operational environment, but in training the heat is contained whereas in an operation it’s not contained. They essentially work to a pattern of 20 minutes in and 20 minutes out because of the oxygen, the heat and the exhaustion. It would be interesting to look at whether we have firefighters who are more adept physically at dealing with certain temperatures than other firefighters – then you can prioritise your firefighters based on their physical attributes that aren’t necessarily understood, giving you the best operational opportunities.”

Bodytrak, which has already secured £2.6 million of seed funding and plans a Series A fundraising round for this year, aims to be available for the consumer market in the second quarter of 2018.

For more information, visit: www.bodytrak.co

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